Students for Success Program: GONA

On August 3 & 4th at the Clearwater River Casino Event Center, the Students for Success Program held an event called “Gathering of Native Americans” or GONA for short, the first-ever held on the Nez Perce reservation.  A GONA is a culture-based planning process where community members gather to address community-identified issues.  The Students for Success youth GONA was for youth ages 12 to young adults, however, all community members were welcome to attend.   The GONA uses an interactive approach that empowers and supports American Indian/Alaskan Native tribes. The GONA approach reflects AI/AN cultural values, traditions, and spiritual practices.  The GONA typically focuses on the following four themes, “belonging”—the GONA ensures that everyone feels welcomed in an inclusive, open, safe, and trusting environment, “mastery”—the GONA allows participants to take stock of how historical trauma impacts their communities and what fosters their resilience and holds them together, “interdependence”—the GONA initiates the planning process to assess resources and relationships, and to experience and strengthen interconnectedness and “generosity”—the GONA exercise of creating gifts to share with other participants symbolizes each participant’s larger gift to their families and communities in helping to address and prevent mental and substance use disorders, prevent suicide, and promote mental health.  Some of the activities the youth completed are below:

Medicine Wheel Activity

Students were provided an overview of the 4 main dimensions of the medicine wheel.  This included why it is so important that they take care of themselves as these 4 dimensions describe.  Students were then asked to break into groups and conduct an inventory or identify what they do that contributes to their wellness within each of the 4 dimensions of the medicine Wheel (i.e., what do they currently do that improves their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness). After they were finished each group reported out and was validated by their peers.

Trauma Tree Exercise

In another activity, the youth answered these questions:

Roots=what happened historically that affects us as a community today?

Trunk=what did we lose or what was lost or taken away from us after these events occurred?

Branches=what do we see today in the community because of the events that occurred in the past?

The Healing Tree 

This activity was part of the interdependence section of the GONA.  The youth were asked to answer these questions and report their answers to their peers.

Roots = what are the strong Community, culture, spiritual, family, or individual values that we live by? I.e. honor, love, ceremonies, education, respect, etc.

Trunk=what do these values provide for us?

Branches=what do we hope to see truth in the community based on the positive values or what outcomes do we want to see in the community?

The GONA facilitators did an awesome job!  Their names are Gerry Crowshoe and Rebecca Lyn.  Both have facilitated many GONA’s and you could tell as the youth were really engaged the entire time.  In fact, most of the youth asked for more GONA’s, one even asked for us to do it once a month!

The NAHOVA (substance abuse and suicide prevention) youth board really went above and beyond for this great event.  Many of them have been an integral part of the planning of this event since last winter and each of them contributed a lot to the success of this event.  Preston Amerman and Graciela Broncheau did the welcome address, Joseph Payne, Sayaqic Broncheau and Ayanna Oatman led the icebreaker sessions and Markus Ellenwood and Remy Reeder were a big help with a little bit of everything!  All of the NAHOVA members, even the ones who were unable to attend, put a lot of hard work and hours, and commitment!

Contact: Abraham F. Broncheau, Nez Perce Tribe Students for Success Director,; (208) 621-4613

Lapwai, Idaho